Ben Travis, the CEO of Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust, admitted today that public statements deemed by former health minister, Sir Norman Lamb to be” inaccurate, severely defamatory and deeply distressing to Dr Chris Day” had been clumsily worded by the trust. The statements were sent to 18 prominent people including MPs, the leader of Lewisham Council and the director of social services.
The admission by Ben Travis was one of a series made during a two day cross examination by Andrew Allen QC, Chris Day’s lawyer, at the end of the second week of an employment tribunal hearing brought by Mr Day against the trust.
Dr Day suffered detriments after bringing protective disclosures about patient safety and inadequate staffing at the intensive care centre at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Woolwich where he worked. Two people died there- one after a tube was wrongly inserted into a person’s liver. The disclosures were denied by the trust and Health Education England for six years.
Mr Travis also admitted that the trust’s portrayal of the complaints as a staff shortage that happened just on one night – backed up by an investigation by external clinical management consultants M J Roddis Associates – was incorrect.
But the main disclosures came during cross questioning of Mr Travis on how the trust handled complaints made by Sir Norman Lamb, the former health minister and Liberal Democrat MP, who took up Dr Day’s case.
Chief executive never read the Roddis report in full
It emerged that when Mr Travis first met Sir Norman with Dr Day and his wife he had not even read the Roddis Associates report – whose findings are one of the main bones of contention between Dr Day and the trust.
As his evidence says: ” At the outset of the meeting, I gave the Trust’s perspective on the case. Dr Day then set out his challenges as to why he considered the statements to be factually incorrect, in particular in respect of the Trust’s first statement and some of the summary findings of the MJ Roddis reports.”
“…Whilst I knew of the headline summary of both reports, I had not read these in full and I did not know every detail of them. However, I was aware that the report had concluded that, overall, the Trust had acted appropriately but there were opportunities for learning and improvement”.
When he was questioned by Chris Day on this he admits:” This made it difficult for me to respond at the meeting to Dr Day on specific questions related to the reports, despite a number of questions from him.”
Kate Anderson never produced a written report but absolved the trust
His solution was to set up an internal review of what had happened to report back to Sir Norman. He appointed Kate Anderson, Director of Corporate Affairs, “who had no prior significant involvement in the case, to conduct the review. Her background is as a qualified accountant in the KPMG Public Sector Audit team, working with NHS organisations in both an audit and advisory capacity. She has strong corporate
governance and audit skills and I had absolute faith that she would carry out a thorough review.”
She had no medical knowledge however and had joined the trust in 2019.
Further questioning by Mr Allen of Ben Travis revealed a lot of missing information about her report which absolved the trust of doing anything wrong. Mr Travis drafted a letter of appointment but never sent it to her. There were no terms of reference for the internal review, there is no record of who she contacted to conduct the review,. no emails about its progress, In fact her written report does not exist.
Ben Travis said in his witness statement “Kate Anderson concluded that the Trust’s actions and statements had been appropriate. She updated me in person on her findings rather than preparing a written report. However, she reflected her findings in a detailed draft letter” for Mr Travis to send to Norman Lamb, but then Mr Travis decided not to send it to him.
His reasoning was rather curious. “I did not send this letter because Dr Day had begun to reference our
discussions with Norman Lamb in support of his application to set aside the settlement agreement.”
He did eventually meet with Sir Norman but nobody took any notes. He said he conveyed the findings of the review but Sir Norman wanted a full inquiry and the press statement taken down. Mr Travis decided not to have one and to keep the statement on the website.
He said that Sir Norman did not pursue this further but missed the fact that Sir Norman then initiated a debate on Dr Chris Day’s plight in the House of Commons
Kate Anderson is not being called by the trust as a witness to explain how she compiled the report though she attended the hearing today as an observer.
But Mr Travis now admits the statement the trust put out was ” clumsily worded”.
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